Killers offered no mercy, received no mercy in Franklinton courtroom
One year ago, Levi Lee and Lance Rouse showed no mercy to a Bogalusa convenience store owner, shooting him in cold blood with a shotgun during an armed robbery.
Last week, District Court Judge William H. Burris returned the favor, showing Lee and Rouse no mercy as he sentenced Lee to life in prison and Rouse to 100 years in prison.
Chief Deputy Mike Haley of the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office said that with the length of the sentences, neither man will ever see the light of day.
Lee, 17, of Tylertown, and Rouse, 25, of Picayune pleaded guilty before Judge Burris last Wednesday at the Franklinton courthouse in the shooting death of convenience store owner Abdulrahman Taleb on December 28, 2018.
Lee pleaded guilty, as charged, to second degree murder and two counts of armed robbery and was sentenced by Judge Burris to life in prison. Rouse pleaded guilty to manslaughter and two counts of armed robbery, and Burris sentenced him to 100 years in prison: 40 years on the manslaughter charge, which is to be served consecutively to 60 years on the armed robbery charges.
A third person, Melissa Smith, 30, of Tylertown, Rouse’s girlfriend, pleaded guilty to two counts of armed robbery and was sentenced by Judge Burris to 20 years in prison on each count, to be served concurrently, for a total of 20 years.
The crime took place at the J and Z Quik store, located at Highway 21 and City Limits Road in Bogalusa, about 4:20 a.m. Taleb was confronted at gunpoint in the parking lot as he was taking out the trash.
Lee shot him in his leg during a struggle. The incident was captured on video, and the robbers were later identified as Lee and Rouse. Taleb died two days later from his injuries. Lee and Rouse got about $250 from the cash register and also robbed a customer inside the store of about $180.
Investigators said Smith waited for Lee and Rouse in the passenger side of the getaway vehicle.
When Lee, Rouse, and Smith were identified, warrants were issued for their arrests, but they fled from the area. They picked up a juvenile from a Mississippi motel, and she accompanied them on their attempted escape. Law enforcement officials just outside Montgomery, Alabama spotted the group, engaged in a vehicle pursuit, and ultimately arrested them.
The Washington Parish Sheriff's Office, which investigated the case, was able to recover one of the shotguns and pieces of the other one.
Lee and Rouse also are each facing two additional aggravated burglary charges in St. Tammany Parish. They are accused of entering a Covington home late one night just days before the Bogalusa robbery and holding a woman at gunpoint in her bedroom while they stole her valuables, including two shotguns. The shotguns matched the description of those used in the Bogalusa robbery.
Additionally, Lee pleaded guilty to aggravated arson for setting a fire in the Washington Parish jail last summer, and Burris sentenced him to an additional 20 years in prison. That time is to be served concurrent to his life sentence.
Taleb's wife and daughter were consulted and agreed to the terms of the plea, and both gave impact statements before Judge Burris during the hearing.
Sheriff Randy Seal said, “It is good that this horrible event has been brought to a conclusion. I am so grateful for the hard work and diligence of our criminal investigation division which quickly solved this senseless and evil crime, tracked the fugitives to Alabama and then brought them back to Washington Parish to face justice. As a result of the excellent work of our investigators, the District Attorney’s Office was able to proceed with a successful prosecution.”